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archive for baking

greening

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

Recipe: easy strawberry cake

I’d like to say that social distancing has made me more aware of my natural surroundings, but that would be a lie. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the greening of our wild spaces since February, watching for every hint of spring’s arrival. And by greening, I mean the sprouting of tiny buds and leaves and shoots. I could go either way at this point: four feet of snow or full frontal mushroom flush.


morning fog condenses on mountain pasqueflower fuzz

hello wild (feral) asparagus season



As I’ve said before, I don’t mind self-isolation because I like staying in the mountains. We considered our bi-monthly trip to the flats a chore of necessity – that is until the asparagus spears started popping up. It isn’t simply the allure of finding “free food” because you should know by now that “free isn’t free”. Part of it is the thrill of foraging, but also the forensics. I don’t just pick and go, but study the ghosts of the previous year, make note of growth patterns, and recognize where stalks have been cut, torn, or chewed.

the sweetest stalks

sautéed asparagus, snap peas, morels (from last year), on homemade tagliatelle

tempura fried asparagus in a mushroom sushi roll



On the sewing front, I spent a little time prototyping a hybrid of the Olson and pleated mask designs and finally settled on one that achieved my goals of fit, function, and ease of production (because I am not a skilled sewist). I posted a 10-minute tutorial on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B__igaYlJoz/ if you are interested. That took forever, but I am hoping the effort will help others make masks for themselves and those who need them.

a recent batch of masks



There hasn’t been a lot of sugary baking going on in our house during the pandemic. It’s mostly been dog treats and cooking savory meals. But now that sweet, red strawberries are arriving in markets, I can get on board with something like a simple cake studded with those red gems.

flour, strawberries, vanilla extract, vegetable oil, sour cream, sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt

dice half of the strawberries and slice the other half



**Jump for more butter**

not a pita

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Recipe: sourdough pita bread

It’s already February and I can’t help but feel a slight panic that winter is nearly over. Technically we’re only halfway through it, and snow season for us can last into June or July if we’re lucky. This season Jeremy and I made a pact that we would stop being powder jerks and make a point to regularly ski groomers, uphill, Nordic, backcountry – anything active with more focus on cardio. It’s been great, and when we hit those high pressure systems that leave us with more ice than snow, we grab some miles on the treadmill or indoor bike trainer.


when there isn’t snow, these two happily fetch/chase



We celebrated Chinese New Year quietly at home with traditional dishes. I kept it simple and allowed myself a few shortcuts (frozen dumplings and bao) for sanity’s sake as we were packing up to head to Crested Butte.

symbolic foods for good luck, fortune, health, and happiness

sweet red bean bao in the morning

a nice view of mount crested butte

week old powder holds up nicely around here

diffuse light and long shadows



This past Saturday, Yuki turned two years old. It’s hard for me to think of her as anything other than a puppy because she is such a baby. We celebrated with goodie plates: raw beef, beef meatballs, bacon, Parmesan crisp, unsweetened whipped cream, and their usual homemade dog treats decorated with sugar icing and naturally colored sprinkles. It’s been such a joy to watch Yuki learn, grow, and become more confident while maintaining her playful, silly personality. We love her so very much.

our birthday girl

monster candles seemed appropriate

pawty time!

the pups burn those calories and then some

skate ski in 3°f



The night before, our low temperature dropped to -27.3°F and the high for the day never cleared 4°F. I don’t know about you, but that kind of cold is a great excuse to bake and run a hot oven. A couple of years ago, shortly after I had received my sourdough starter, I split some off to give to my friend, Amanda. We were both new to the sourdough game and stood around discussing different foods you could make with sourdough starter. She mentioned homemade pita bread and told me there is no going back once you’ve eaten fresh baked pita. Amanda assured me it was easy to make, so I figured there must be a sourdough version.

sourdough levain, bread flour, whole wheat flour, sea salt, water, olive oil



The sourdough levain should be fed at 100% hydration. If you’re new to sourdough, the 100% hydration means the starter was fed with equal WEIGHT (not volume) water and flour. The wild yeast in the starter needs to have enough time (usually 8-12 hours at room temperature) to digest the new food and produce carbon dioxide bubbles. When the levain is ready, all of the ingredients get mixed together. You can knead the dough by hand or with the dough hook of a stand mixer.

the bubbles indicate the levain is ready

combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl

i used a dough hook to knead the dough



The dough will feel smooth and elastic after 4-5 minutes in the stand mixer or 8-10 minutes of kneading by hand. Place it in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest until doubled in size. This can be anywhere from 2 hours in a very warm room to 24 hours in a very cool room (64-68°F). I let mine go for 24 hours because our house is always cold in non-summer months.

let the dough rest in a covered greased bowl

doubled in size



**Jump for more butter**

the chewy parts of life

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Recipe: flourless chocolate walnut cookies

We have emerged on the other side of the holidays more or less unscathed. People are crazy, and there is nothing like Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day to really drive that observation home. Jeremy and I filled the past few weeks with many flavors of skiing, catching up on work, exercising the pups, long and thoughtful discussions, doing our best to eat like sensible adults, and avoiding other people. It was great.


christmas morning, an uphill ski on the mountain with our crazy pups

calendar girl, yuki (rezdawg rescue’s 2020 calendar)

national bacon day and a -10°f skate ski with my denver erin

new year’s day uphill ski

frost flowers on a cold skate ski in crested butte

skiing down the mountain with this crazy pack



During the holiday downtime, we came to the realization that Yuki is now an adult (despite behaving like a puppy) and that travel might just become a reality for us again. And I decided it’s time to put Twitter and Facebook into full neglect mode. The only reason I keep a Facebook account is to access the driving conditions page for our local canyon – otherwise it is a hugely unproductive time suck. So for now, if you want updates on new posts, you can follow me on Instagram at @jenyuphoto (personal) or @userealbutter (just the blog), subscribe to this blog (there is a link at the top of this page), or periodically check here.

Also? I sorta got my cooking mojo back! There were recipes that piqued my interest enough to want to make and even photograph to share here. I’ve always got one eye open for decent gluten-free recipes. I eat the hell out of gluten, but there are a handful of people I really like who cannot. If I like you, I will bake for you. If I really like you, I will cook for you. Don’t let the gluten-freeness of these flourless chocolate walnut cookies deter you if you dig on gluten. These gems are not only delicious and perfectly textured, they are easy to make (i.e. hard to fuck up). It’s like the ghetto version of a French macaron.


walnuts, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, cocoa powder, egg whites



Apparently, there is great flexibility to the recipe according to the Food52 post. You can omit the nuts, change the flavorings, add chocolate chips. I haven’t tried any ingredient variations yet. First, you want to toast the walnuts which involves a quick 9-10 minutes in a moderate (350°F) oven. Chop them up and let them cool. If you mix the cookie dough with a stand mixer, the nuts will get bashed up by the paddle during mixing. If you mix the dough by hand – which I haven’t done – you may want to chop the walnuts a little finer as they won’t receive as much of a beating. I do recommend weighing your ingredients rather than measuring by volume because: 1) it’s more accurate and 2) fewer dishes to wash.

coarsely chop the toasted walnuts

combine the dry ingredients in a bowl



**Jump for more butter**